As we observe World Aids Day, I had the opportunity to see former President Bill Clinton speak at Columbia University. This year’s theme was to promote a global idea of Universal Health Care and Human Rights. The panel consisted of Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and Calli Vinci a 29 Year old man diagnosed with the HIV virus at 23.
President Clinton has been working tirelessly around the world on his Clinton HIV/AIDS initiative. He began the panel discussion by explaining that the of the most important goal is closing the gap in HIV/AIDS cases and that the most important thing we can do is build up those networks and programs that is already helping prevent HIV/AIDS cases. He believes what has to change is our thinking when it comes to matters that deal with HIV/AIDS, our culture and the way we think about HIV/AIDS has to change and when it does change, it will make a difference. HIV/AIDS awareness is something that needs to be kept on the forefront.
C. Virginia Fields stated that the Center for Disease Control estimated that every 9.9 minute someone is infected with HIV/AIDS and the infection rate is continuing to rise. Sharing personal stories, like Calli Vinci telling us how he was sitting in an emergency room, at the age of 23, being told by a doctor that he has contacted the HIV virus, is why we have a World AIDS Day, letting people know your story.
An important factor that the panel discussed is that this is not a Gay, Transgendered, Man, Woman, problem this is a human problem and everybody is involved. One of the things that is forgotten is that the two minorities that face the most persecution are woman and gay men, throughout war torn countries in Africa women are raped on a daily basis and contracting HIV/AIDS, countries such as Uganda have proposed laws that would impose life imprisonment on homosexuals and requires the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”- defined as any sexual act between gays or lesbians in which one person has HIV/AIDS. Like President Clinton said before our thinking needs to change on these matters.